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Navisworks on BIM projects: should you be using it?

Engineering and construction professionals are eagerly taking advantage of new software and technologies for their BIM projects daily. One of the mainstay software tools firmly established in their armoury is Navisworks from Autodesk. If you are wondering what Navisworks can do and whether you should use it on your BIM projects, this article has you covered!

What is Navisworks?

Autodesk has positioned itself as one of the world’s top CAD & BIM software providers. They have a wide range of products, with AutoCAD and its DWG file format being the de facto CAD platform for decades. Although AutoCAD has been in the market since 1982, Autodesk has continued to expand the number of solutions they provide for construction design and engineering. In 2007, Autodesk bought the UK-based company Navisworks, which owned the software of the same name. However, Navisworks 2016 was considered the first stable release.

Navisworks is described by Autodesk as ‘3D design review software’ and this indeed summarises its core capability – it helps you review your 3D designs. This potentially makes Navisworks the perfect software for your BIM projects. A further driving factor for its selection is that, since it comes from the Autodesk stable, it generally integrates seamlessly with other Autodesk BIM packages, such as Revit and Civil 3D. You can easily export your Revit and Civil 3D models into Navisworks.

Coordination made simple

Once you have your 3D models in Navisworks, it is possible to use all the capabilities of the software. One of the main advantages is that Navisworks models are optimised for visualisation, rather than engineering and design work. This translates to simpler models that will not consume all your computer’s resources. In turn, you will find the user experience with Navisworks to be much quicker and more fluid than trying to navigate through the same models directly within Revit or Civil 3D. For example, regardless of your workstation specs you will be able to orbit around the model without running out of machine memory!

Another key feature of Navisworks is that it directly supports BIM core objectives – coordination and collaboration. Navisworks is the software of choice for many consultancies and contractors for this precise reason. It allows project teams and individuals to bring all their individual models together into one place. This is how many companies create their ‘federated models.’ Once all individual models are brought together, Navisworks provides the perfect environment to inspect and review them. It is very intuitive to navigate, which is also an advantage compared to other more complicated software packages like Civil 3D or Revit.

Clash detection comes at a premium

But Navisworks does not stop there. With the Navisworks Manage software (see below for more on the different versions available), you have added coordination insights in the form of a built-in sophisticated tool for clash detection, albeit at an added licensing cost. You will no doubt have seen on-site clashes of some sort, between different assets leading to delays and claims. With the clash detection tool in Navisworks Manage, project teams can develop and deliver clash-free BIM models. This has numerous advantages down-the-line during construction, as it minimises errors and abortive work.

Navisworks on BIM projects clash detection

If that was not enough to convince you that Navisworks is a great tool for your BIM projects, you can also use it to obtain quantity take-offs, create 3D animations and fly-throughs, and 5D scheduling. Also, Navisworks can be used with IFC models – the universal exchange format for models established in the ISO 19650 series. This ensures you can receive and coordinate against models produced by various third-party platforms.

Which version is right for you?

Now, it is important to clarify that there are three different variations of Navisworks: Freedom, Simulate and Manage. Depending on your needs, you should get one or another. Navisworks Freedom is the most basic – and free – option. Navisworks Freedom can only be used to visualise models – you cannot use it for clash detection, 3D renderings or animations. Also, you cannot visualise IFC models with Navisworks Freedom, so it may not be the best option if you are intending to author models and perform general analysis. However, it may be a good alternative for clients or managers who only need to have a look at the models.

On the other end of the scale, we have Navisworks Manage. This version includes a full feature-set, such as clash detection, review management, quantities take-off, etc. This is the most powerful version and the one that can really bring more value to your projects. Navisworks Simulate, on the other hand, includes everything that Manage has, apart from the clash detection tool. Therefore, if you are not planning to do clash detection, but want to have all the other features like review management, 3D animations, 5D scheduling, etc. then Navisworks Simulate is your option.

Will your BIM projects benefit?

As an experienced user of Navisworks Manage, I must say that it is an extremely helpful piece of software. Intuitive, easy to use and efficient. You can learn the basic features in a few days and get most of its benefits very quickly. Do you work with AutoCAD, Revit, Civil 3D or other Autodesk software for your BIM projects? Then you may well wish to consider adding the power of Navisworks to your toolset. You can get a free trial from Autodesk and give it a go. I am sure it will not disappoint you.

Have you used Navisworks on your BIM projects already? What is your experience? Let us know in the comments!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Steffan

    You use Navisworks to incorporate designs from various CAD tools, and streamline coordination and clash detection.

    There is a third use that you missed, and that is the simple dissemination of design information to construction crews. I am a surveyor who uses Navisworks 2020 for my construction layout workflow. My primary source of information are IFC drawings, issued from the engineer, and a combined (Civil, Piping, Electrical, Structural, Architectural) model provided via Navisworks.

    Navisworks exports a file type .fbx, which was supported in Civil 3D 2018. This functionality has been removed in recent versions.

    I would import the .fbx, and explode the mesh to extract the 3D polylines that I required for layout. Otherwise I am forced to draft the entire plant site based on pdf drawings just to lay it out. This also does not help with smaller features that may be missed in pdf drawings, lacking dimensions.

    Is there an alternate workflow that you can think of for information from Navisworks -> Civil 3D in newer versions?

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